We sailed on the NCL Breakaway for the June 2 to June 9 cruise to Bermuda. My fiancé and I had an Aft Mini Suite stateroom. Overall, it was a GREAT week, with calm seas on the way down and slightly rough seas on the way back, abundant sunshine in port, and slight rain on the way home.
Since this is our 5th cruise, we know that no ship can be everything for everyone. Even the Breakaway, which is huge, new, has its share of quirks. Some of these we found to be disappointing, but they certainly are not enough to give an overall merit rating to the ship anything less than 5 stars. Norwegian’s “Free Style” cruising is a good fit for a relaxed, casual, unstructured and informal, non-scheduled style of vacation. However, the requirement for scheduling and preplanning your shows early in the week, or you may not get in, does take away from the Freestyle concept. We did plan and were able to see all of the shows on our list, so please remember to pre-book your choices for entertainment on your first day on the ship.
The New York piers are normally a madhouse, but Norwegian seems to have found a way to move things along quickly once you leave your luggage with one of the curbside porters.
We arrived at Pier 88 about 11:50 AM and in less than a half-hour had moved through security, checked-in, had our sail away photos taken, and were up the gangplank and onto the ship. I agree with another reviewer in that it was a little disappointing that NCL was not using crew or cast members to greet the guests as they came aboard, as we have seen done on our previous 4 NCL ships. As usual for us, we went to one of the sit down restaurants for lunch and within 45 minutes there was an announcement indicating that all staterooms were now ready for use. When we finished lunch at the Taste dining room we went to our cabin to discover that our luggage arrived and that our steward had already brought it into our room for us. That was a nice touch.
One of the hidden gems on this ship is the size of the Aft Mini suite (10916). The room itself is about 500 sq ft and the balcony can easily accommodate 4 lounge chairs, 2 standard chairs and a small table. The bathroom is tremendous with the feel of a standard hotel bathroom. This room had 6 clothing drawers, 10 storage cubbies in the closet, a mini fridge and a full size standard wardrobe closet. The desk area had another 3 drawers and a huge counter space. Since the room is designed as handicap accessible, it is limited to 2 passengers (could easily accommodate 6). The only downside to the room is the electric door … it takes forever to close and if pushed, reopens and restarts the cycle. We have noticed that many new cruisers do not realize that in most state rooms there is adequate storage for 2 or 3 large suitcases under each bed, total 6 for the room. Just gets the bags out of your way.
Since the staterooms are designed to be energy efficient, you need to have a key card inserted into the key slot on the interior of the room or all of the electricity turns off. It really isn’t a big deal during the day in a balcony cabin as there is sufficient light in the room. It does become an issue at night, since the lights in the cabin will not turn on unless you insert a card and the room is quite dark otherwise. Also, since the bathroom has no window, inserting a card into this device is critical or there are no lights in the bathroom either. Leaving a card in the slot is also essential if you intend to charge any electronic devices while you are not in the cabin (any hotel key card works for this purpose).
The Breakaway has fee-based restaurants and complimentary Main Dining Rooms that offer a great choice of tasty meals. Other than the port days, in which we ate breakfast at the buffet in the Uptown Grill and lunch in port, we had the majority of our meals in the specialty restaurants with one dinner in the Manhattan dining room. All of the specialty restaurants were great and reasonably priced with the exception of Ocean Blue.
Ocean Blue – For the quality and quantity of the meal it was considerably overpriced. The menu is listed for an appetizer or salad, entrée, desert. However, many guests will want both an appetizer and a salad along with their entrée and dessert; the problem is that there is a $12 up charge for that privilege. The portions are all appetizer sized portions and not very appealing for a seafood restaurant. I had the scallops, anchovies and pork, while it was an interesting combination, the sauce and pork left me questioning the skills of the chef. My fiancé had the salmon, it was an interesting presentation, nice piece of fish, poorly prepared, almost seemed like deep fried and overcooked. Expectations were very high coming into the restaurant; unfortunately, we came away with the feeling that we should have spent the money on Cagney’s or Le Bistro, quality we know. If the price were lower we might have been more accepting, we were very disappointed.
Teppanyaki … Excellent as always, Chef and wait staff were excellent along with the quality and skill in the food preparation.
Taste/Savor – Nice idea for 2 additional dining rooms, problem is that you still must wait in the same ‘Long’ line at Savor to get seated in either restaurant. Not very efficient
Garden Café – Food that should be warm or hot, is frequently cold, NCL needs a monitoring system or staff member to go around using an Infrared thermometer to determine presentation temperature. It was a disappointment that the Garden Café was not open for a late night snack at midnight, as it closes at 11:30 or earlier.
Room Service – One evening we returned from a show and ordered 2 pots of coffee and 2 bowls of chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I was told 30 to 45 minutes. I called after 70 minutes to be told that our order had just left the kitchen and would be delivered within 30 minutes. When delivered, the order was wrong, 1 pot of coffee and 1 dish of vanilla and 1 dish of strawberry, not quite right. The big issue is that the used dishes for all of the cabins get piled up in the hallway, almost blocking passage until the middle of the afternoon into the evening of the next day, not very sanitary or pleasant.
Bars –During our trip, we stopped at a number of the different bars to sample the ambiance and to find a place to just relax. As with any bar on the street, drink recipes varied and even the prices varied.. this was a little unexpected and disappointing.
Photography – The photographers are not always available at the restaurants and if they are, they seem to be more interested in just getting the photo done instead of the quality of the picture (simple things … smiles, open eyes, turned heads). I like the idea that you are required to give a cabin number, but it must be entered correctly. We had 2 other cabin’s pictures in our collection, while missing some of ours. I brought it up to one of the Gallery members and I basically felt he had no interest in correcting the problem and that I was being difficult
IC App – worked well first day, after that it was questionable, kept dropping out when I wanted to make reservations. TV app acted strange, I purchased 4 Cruise Rewards and the system doubled the purchase. I like the ability to see my planned onboard activities, NCL needs to add restaurant reservations and shore excursions to my activity list.
Shows .. The quality and the variety of the shows were excellent. However, several show and theater reviews have commented that the theatre is small, with no balcony seating. This is true. The Breakaway theater seating is very uncomfortable and will cause you back strain after 30 to 45 minutes. The waiters efficiently serve you drinks, but you quickly discover that drink holders are poorly placed and make it almost unpleasant to have a drink available. Considering the configuration of the theater it is best to plan to sit closer to the stage to have the best view possible.
NYC Port 88 … beyond terrible, no coordination, we were pushed in mass out into a very crowded traffic filled 12th avenue (highly un-safe) and ordered (not asked) to move across to the other side of the street and wait on the public sidewalk. Very poor effort on the part of the Port Authority.
Overall, our experience on the Breakaway was wonderful (how can vacation be bad) and Norwegian should be proud of their staff and accomplishment with this new ‘State of the Art’ cruise liner.